Caxton's Book: A Collection of Essays, Poems, Tales, and Sketches: Part 30

Was Rome the Eden of our ancient state, Just in her laws, in her dominion great, Wise in her counsels, matchless in her worth, Acknowledged great proconsul of the earth?

An eye prophetic that has read the leaves The sibyls scattered from their loosened sheaves, A bard that sang at Rome in all her pride, Shall give response;--let Seneca decide!

"Beyond the rocks where Shetland's breakers roar, And clothe in foam the wailing, ice-bound sh.o.r.e, Within the bosom of a tranquil sea, Where Earth has reared her _Ultima Thule_, The gorgeous West conceals a golden clime, The petted child, the paragon of Time!

In distant years, when Ocean's mountain wave Shall rock a cradle, not upheave a grave, When men shall walk the pathway of the brine, With feet as safe as Terra watches mine, Then shall the barriers of the Western Sea Despised and broken down forever be; Then man shall spurn old Ocean's loftiest crest, And tear the secret from his stormy breast!"

Again the vision fades. Night settles down And shrouds the world in black Plutonian frown; Earth staggers on, like mourners to a tomb, Wrapt in one long millennium of gloom.

That past, the light breaks through the clouds of war, And drives the mists of Bigotry afar; Amalfi sees her burial tomes unfurl'd, And dead Justinian rules again the world.

The torch of Science is illumed once more; Adventure gazes from the surf-beat sh.o.r.e, Lifts in his arms the wave-worn Genoese, And hails Iberia, Mistress of the Seas!

What cry resounds along the Western main, Mounts to the stars, is echoed back again, And wakes the voices of the startled sea, Dumb until now, from past eternity?

"Land! land!" is chanted from the Pinta's deck; Smiling afar, a minute glory-speck, But grandly rising from the convex sea, To crown Colon with immortality, The Western World emerges from the wave, G.o.d's last asylum for the free and brave!

But where within this ocean-bounded clime, This fairest offspring of the womb of time,-- Plato's Atlantis, risen from the sea, Utopia's realm, beyond old Rome's Thule,-- Where shall we find, within this giant land, By blood redeemed, with Freedom's rainbow spann'd, The spot first trod by mortals on the earth, Where Adam's race was cradled into birth?

'Twas sought by Cortez with his warrior band, In realms once ruled by Montezuma's hand; Where the old Aztec, 'neath his hills of snow, Built the bright domes of silver Mexico.

Pizarro sought it where the Inca's rod Proclaimed the prince half-mortal, demi-G.o.d, When the mild children of unblest Peru Before the bloodhounds of the conqueror flew, And saw their country and their race undone, And perish 'neath the Temple of the Sun!

De Soto sought it, with his tawny bride, Near where the Mississippi's waters glide, Beneath the ripples of whose yellow wave He found at last both monument and grave.

Old Ponce de Leon, in the land of flowers, Searched long for Eden 'midst her groves and bowers, Whilst brave La Salle, where Texan prairies smile, Roamed westward still, to reach the happy isle.

The Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower's deck, Fleeing beyond a tyrant's haughty beck, In quest of Eden, trod the rock-bound sh.o.r.e, Where bleak New England's wintry surges roar; Raleigh, with glory in his eagle eye, Chased the lost realm beneath a Southern sky; Whilst Boone believed that Paradise was found In old Kentucky's "dark and b.l.o.o.d.y ground!"

In vain their labors, all in vain their toil; Doomed ne'er to breathe that air nor tread that soil.

Heaven had reserved it till a race sublime Should launch its heroes on the wave of time!

Go with me now, ye Californian band, And gaze with wonder at your glorious land; Ascend the summit of yon middle chain, When Mount Diablo rises from the plain, And cast your eyes with telescopic power, O'er hill and forest, over field and flower.

Behold! how free the hand of G.o.d hath roll'd A wave of wealth across your Land of Gold!

The mountains ooze it from their swelling breast, The milk-white quartz displays it in her crest; Each tiny brook that warbles to the sea, Harps on its strings a golden melody; Whilst the young waves are cradled on the sh.o.r.e On spangling pillows, stuffed with golden ore!

Look northward! See the Sacramento glide Through valleys blooming like a royal bride, And bearing onward to the ocean's sh.o.r.e A richer freight than Arno ever bore!

See! also fanned by cool refreshing gales, Fair Petaluma and her sister vales, Whose fields and orchards ornament the plain And deluge earth with one vast sea of grain!

Look southward! Santa Clara smiles afar, As in the fields of heaven, a radiant star; Los Angeles is laughing through her vines; Old Monterey sits moody midst her pines; Far San Diego flames her golden bow, And Santa Barbara sheds her fleece of snow, Whilst Bernardino's ever-vernal down Gleams like an emerald in a monarch's crown!

Look eastward! On the plains of San Joaquin Ten thousand herds in dense array are seen.

Aloft like columns propping up the skies The cloud-kissed groves of Calaveras rise; Whilst dashing downward from their dizzy home The thundering falls of Yo Semite foam!

Look westward! Opening on an ocean great, Behold the portal of the Golden Gate!

Pillared on granite, destined e'er to stand The iron rampart of the sunset land!

With rosy cheeks, fanned by the fresh sea-breeze, The petted child of the Pacific seas, See San Francisco smile! Majestic heir Of all that's brave, or bountiful, or fair, Pride of our land, by every wave carest, And hailed by nations, Venice of the West!

Where then is Eden? Ah! why should I tell, What every eye and bosom know so well?

Why thy name the land all other lands have blest, And traced for ages to the distant West?

Why search in vain throughout th' historic page For Eden's garden and the Golden Age?


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